Augustus Desiré Waller (1856 – 1922) British physiologist.
In 1887 he used a Lippmann’s capillary electrometer…and a toy train,to record the first human electrocardiogram
Physiology dominated Waller’s life. He had a home laboratory where his wife Alice Palmer (biscuit heiress of Huntley and Palmer) and 5 children participated and dog Jimmie took part in his experiments.
His daughter Mary remembered packing for a trip and her mother asking the children what things they wanted to take, adding ‘but don’t forget, Father has bagged the galvanometer‘.
- Born 18 July 1856 Paris, France
- 1881 – MD, Aberdeen University
- 1883 – Lecturer in physiology at the School of Medicine for Women, London
- 1884 – Lecturer in physiology at St Mary’s Hospital
- 1897 – Fullerian Professor of Physiology
- Died 11 March 1922
Key Medical Attributions
1887 – Waller used a capillary his ‘electrometer‘ to record the first human electrocardiogram. He attached his equipment to a slowly moving toy train, allowing him to record the heart’s activity in real time.
1887 – “The first experiment was made in the St Mary’s laboratory in May 1887 and demonstrated there to many physiologists, among others to my friend Prof Einthoven of Leiden” – Waller 1912
1917 – Waller published a study of over 2000 traces of heart conditions.
AD Waller was the son of Augustus Volnay Waller (1816–1870). AV Waller is remembered for:
Diapedesis: His thesis involved examination of the frog’s tongue micro-circulation. Waller observed white blood cells (but not red ones) could squeeze between capillary cells.
Wallerian degeneration of the nerves: Sections of frog’s tongue to show nerves produced ‘necklaces of droplets‘ (degenerating myelin) on one side of the cut – an indication of the direction in which the nerve normally conducted.
- Waller AD. A demonstration on man of electromotive changes accompanying the heart’s beat. Journal of Physiology 1887;8:229-34. [First ECG in Man]
- Waller AD. On the electromotive changes connected with the beat of the mammalian heart, and of the human heart in particular. Phil Tran Roy Soc London 1889;Ser B 180:169–94.
- Waller AD. An introduction to Human physiology. Longmans, Green, and co. 1891.
- Waller AD. The electrical action of the human heart in 1887 and 1915. BrMedJ 1915;i:35-7
- Waller AD. Physiology, the servant of medicine. Univ. of London Press. 1910.
- Waller AD. A contribution to the psychology of logic, considered from a physiological standpoint. University of London Press. 1912.
- Sykes AH. A D Waller and the electrocardiogram, 1887. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1987 May 30;294(6584):1396-8. [PMC1246558]
- Sykes AH. Servants of Medicine: Augustus Waller—father and son physiologists. J R Soc Med. 2005 Apr; 98(4): 185–186. [PMC1079454]
- Cope Z. Augustus Desire Waller (1856-1922). Med Hist 1973;17:80-5. [PMC1081500]
- Besterman E, Creese R. Waller–pioneer of electrocardiography. Br Heart J. 1979 Jul;42(1):61-4. [PMC482113]
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